The Johnson Medal

The Johnson Institute is privileged to serve as the custodian of the James Weldon Johnson Medal. Established by Mrs. Ollie Jewel Sims Okala and the late Dr. Sondra Kathryn Wilson, historian, author and Executress of the Estate of Grace Nail and James Weldon Johnson, the Johnson Medal has been awarded since 1992 under the auspices of the James Weldon Johnson Foundation.

jwj portrait

Commemorating the accomplishments and legacy of James Weldon Johnson, the Johnson Medal is awarded to individuals who have excelled in areas in which Johnson distinguished himself. In particular these areas are civil rights, diplomacy, education, journalism, law, literature, and music. In 2007, the Johnson Institute established the Humanitarian Award to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to humankind in the tradition of James Weldon Johnson.   

The purpose of the award is to honor the legacy and accomplishments of James Weldon Johnson, a major figure in African American history, culture and politics. The awarding of the Johnson Medal is also an opportunity for Emory University to pay tribute to an artist and man of action who made significant and enduring contributions to our national life and culture.

The Johnson Medal has traditionally been one of the signature programs of the Johnson Institute. Along with honoring the life and legacy of James Weldon Johnson, the Johnson Medal is also a principal fundraiser. All funds raised through this award provide support for the Institute’s various programs.

The Johnson Medal has been temporarily suspended.

Past recipients of the Johnson Medal:

2011 Henry Aaron Humanitarian Award
2011 Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im Human Rights
2011 Xernona Clayton Journalism
2011 Christine King Farris Humanitarian Award
2011 Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka Literature
2010 Lucy Cline Huie Humanitarian Award
2010 Deborah Lipstadt Humanitarian Award
2010 Joseph Lowery Civil Rights
2010 Robert P. (Bob) Moses Civil Rights
2010 Leah Ward Sears Law
2010 Ambassador Andrew Young Civil Rights
2009 Mayor Shirley Franklin                  Humanitarian Award
2009 E. Neville Isdell                              Humanitarian Award
2009 Congressman John Lewis            Civil Rights
2009 Myrlie Evers Williams                   Civil Rights
2009 Gloria Steinem                             Journalism
2009 Alice Walker                                  Literature
2003 Percy E. Sutton Civil Rights
2002 Vernon E. Jordan Civil Rights
2001 Amiri Baraka Literature
2000 Howard Dodson Education
1999 Julian Bond Civil Rights
1998 Harry Belafonte Music
1997 Jessye Norman Music
1996 Constance Baker Motley Law
1995 Bobby Short Music
1994 Mildred Bond Roxborough Civil Rights
1993 Wynton Marsalis Music
1992 Haywood Burns Law